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And so we enter the difficult second post. My defence of SEO so far has centred on its ability to get content noticed, rather than relying on divinity or good fortune. With this post, I want to tackle the accusation that it is to blame for clogging the Internet with spam.
If you haven’t read the original article, Is SEO Essential or an Outmoded Scam Touted by Charlatans? Part I, then first and foremost I recommend it, and secondly you may be completely oblivious as to what the purpose of this follow up is. Essentially SEO comes in for a lot of criticism, often from those in and around the website development sphere; this post comes in response to a particularly stinging criticism from Derek Powazek – a noted designer.
Whilst the ideas that Mr. Powazek discusses about the need for quality in website production are absolutely correct, his ideological stance on the way that they should be marketed offers more questions than it does answers. The overriding question of course is, without SEO, how are people supposed to find your site?
The assertion that SEO is spamming the Internet isn’t entirely disingenuous, but it would take some erroneous logic to suggest that this was the exclusive domain of the ‘SEO experts’. The days of promoting websites at all costs are long gone. Black hat SEO techniques are slowly evaporating, leading to a far more productive, and far less damaging set of practices to promote a website. A modern, more ethical form of SEO.
Black Hat, DIY & Professional SEO
No SEO professional is going to claim that what they practise is a mystic art. We all have the tools at our disposal to promote a website online; but as with most things that are within the realms of our physical and mental capabilities, we don’t always optimise this opportunity.
In his attack, Mr. Powazek, whilst damning SEO as a spammy process, also suggests that people should and could do it themselves. I would be tempted to suggest that the SEO DIYer is far more likely to indulge the dark arts of black hat SEO than any seasoned professional. Armed only the basic knowledge that links and keywords are the pathway to success, those who attempt SEO, rather than fully understand it, could well find that they lose sight of what their actual objective is (i.e. provide a website that is both optimised and visitor-friendly). This then leads them to shamelessly self promote on every forum, blog and comment box that they stumble upon, effectively spamming Google and the wider community of web users.
Whilst we don’t condemn those who do SEO on their own, and certainly wouldn’t suggest that the aforementioned practises are widely used, the blame for spamming the Internet shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the SEO professionals.
If you’ve got a bad product, marketing or not, you’re on a hiding to nothing. Often we are blinded by our own creations – I’ve written copy that was seemingly immaculate to me, but then when analysed by a second pair of eyes was justifiably pulled apart – making outside help essential. If you’ve poured your heart and soul into a website project, it isn’t always easy to take a step back and analyse its failings. An SEO can do this for you. So whilst quality is essential, so is the understanding of how to transfer that into a meaningful long-term online success.
Is SEO Spammy or Just representative of the Internet?
One of the major arguments against spamming the search engines is that it creates ‘noise’. With hundreds of links flying around, websites ranking higher than they should and tireless self-promotion in evidence wherever you look, it’s no wonder people single out SEO for criticism. But in most cases this is completely unjustified.
The simple fact is that for as long as search engines reward sites for optimisation, people will keep optimising. The algorithms continuously update to ensure that underhanded techniques aren’t benefiting, which is helping remove these unethical techniques. In an industry where the strength of your link infrastructure is ascribed such importance and keywords play a part in dictating a site’s relevance to SERPs rankings; SEO will always be essential.
The Googlebot can’t see what your site looks like. It doesn’t have the ability to read a flash image. It can’t see your cutting edge photographs. What it sees is just plain, ugly, text. Your content needs to be up to scratch, but so do your H1 and H2 headings as well as your background Meta. It’s not as simple as creating an awe-inspiring site and assuming it will get picked up.
SEO is Relevant for as Long as Search Engines Remain Popular
To steal (and misuse) a hip hop cliché, people should understand that online you don’t hate the player, you hate the game. In this instance the ‘player’ is search engine optimisation itself, whilst the ‘game’ is website marketing. Until user quality ratings are introduced, something Google has touted, or a search engine crawler can scan a page in its visual entirety, people will use SEO – whether organically or otherwise. In fact, even if these things are introduced, SEO will still always be essential as long as search engines use algorithms dictated by automated crawlers to create rankings, it just has to evolve to adapt to the changes.
I myself have questioned whether the Internet has become too noisy, but for me at least, the ‘noise’ that is being generated is largely the result of an overabundance of unofficial news sources (yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement) and social media. So if SEO is spammy, what does that make its heir apparent social media? But with so much financial incentive on the Internet and such a high level of competition, we are all drawn to optimise through any channel; professional services merely fulfil the supply and demand quota for those who are unable to do it themselves.
Tackling the issue of SEO as a spammy practice and finding out, with this in mind, just how much it differs Powazek’s proposed solution – social media.